today was difficult as usual, extreme highs accompanied by extreme lows. kolkata is in a constant state of motion during the daylight hours. interactions on the street overwhelm your senses and the physical drain begins to set in. one minute you are getting blown away by a taxi horn (which i think they make louder here), the next moment you are being tugged on by a street child to give money, only to then be followed by a “salesman” offering a very good “price” on a shiny green sweater vest. every minute you are consumed by all that is india, chaos.
everyday you must survive the sometimes questionable food, the millions of people, and the blatant poverty in every direction. o yeah and we are starting a grassroots business in a red light district. the mental and physical drain we both experience at the closing of each day is hard to describe.
strangely enough, once i arrive in kalighat and walk down the narrow alley of the red light district to new light, i feel relief and joy. i am greeted with calls of “auntie” from the children and warm hugs from many of the new light family. the stress of the streets subside, i feel at home.
i look forward each day to the moment when the women of kalighat arrive and gather to sew. i witness smiles and warm wishes from the women, whom i have little in common with on paper, and yet i am now welcome into their anchal community. though little communication between us is possible, due to the fact i speak no bengali and they only know a handful of english words, i feel respect and curiosity.
i am inspired and amazed at the camaraderie that this group of women share. not only is this the first time that the dalit women and sex workers have created a textile to be sold but have even sewed fabric at all. the women of these communities have no place to gather and socialize. they have no time for themselves. i hope and believe that anchal gives them a sense of community, a place to express themselves and an opportunity to feel special and confident.
i am still amazed that both groups sit side by side, learning and working. i quietly observe the youth of the women, many are younger than myself and support several children.
it is incredible to think that less than a year ago anchal was just an idea. a card being sold to promote awareness of the injustice occurring to women in a the red light district far away from rhode island. now i sit among 25 women gathered in hopes of an alternative.
words can not express the influence theses women have on me. through all their turmoil and daily struggles, threats, and sorrow; they come together in hope of something more. i admire their bravery and i desire to be as strong and fearless through my life. i want them to know how thankful i am for this opportunity and being able to meet them. even though the road has been difficult, i will be sad to leave the anchal group and new light. they are the reason i am here.